Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Afterlife

Sometimes it’s not about living. Sometimes it’s about the discoveries you make in death.

“It’s the things you learn in death that will surprise you,” a voice said behind me. I had thought I was alone.

The funeral home stood empty and quiet in a way that was quite ominous and foreboding of the upcoming services. Nobody moved in the room, but I could hear distant voices, telling me that we were not alone.

“I thought they weren’t allowing anyone in until the viewing,” I replied. I had been hoping for privacy in the moments before the mourners spilled in.

“They don’t know I’m here,” he replied, taking a seat in the front row.

“Do you have no respect for the privacy of others?” I asked, anxious to know how he had found me. I thought I was hidden from all.

“I have the upmost respect for others. Unfortunately, privacy is no longer something you are privileged to. There’s no where you can hide now, especially from me,” the man said, looking around.

“I don’t understand,” I replied, searching for answers to the many questions that had recently piled up.

“Privacy is a right, kid. And it’s not something that is given to all, especially one such as you.” He spoke in riddles, which only seemed to anger me.

“Seriously? This is a really bad time. Perhaps you could come back at another time?” I asked, hoping he’d bite. “Maybe a time when I’m not waiting on a funeral to begin?”

“I could, but that wouldn’t be as convenient. Here, I know you’re not going to run because you really want to see this thing through.” He stands from the chair and walks over to the coffin. I had hoped they would choose a closed ceremony, but my mother had opted for the open casket. He peered down into the coffin, running his finger along the edge of it as he turned to face me. “It’s creepy, isn’t it?”

“What?” I asked, wishing he’d just leave.

“Looking at a dead body you’re so close to.”

“What would you know about it?” I asked, hoping to deter the conversation from my own mixed emotions.

“I’ve been in your spot,” he said quietly, flipping the switch on the CD player. Remembrance music filled the room. “I’ve stared down into my own coffin and seen the serene expression of a dead man. I’ve been the ghost searching for his way.”

“Did you find your way?” I asked, wishing he was wrong about the ghost part. I had actually been hoping that him seeing me meant that I wasn’t a ghost after all.

“Eventually,” he said, sitting back in the front row. “But, it took a while. There were certain things I had to discover before I was able to move on. Certain things I had to be guided through.”

“Such as?”

“Well, it’s different for everyone. Some people hold onto a loved one or a trinket, while others hold onto things more complex. There is no easy way to predict what ties each of us to this Earth. Only you will truly know,” he says, looking around. My family is starting to gather outside of the room, as the clock ticks closer to the hour. “All I can tell you is that you’re destined for great things. And I must be going.” He stood from his chair and walked to the door, pausing for a moment when he came to my family. I could hear him telling them that they could enter the room and to let him know if he needed anything. He was a human who could see me.

I watched as my family poured into the room. They were a large bunch, comprised of my parents, stepparents, three sisters, and one set of grandparents. They almost filled the room by themselves. If many more people showed up, the room would be a crowded mess. I walked to the door and peered down the hall. I could see the mystery man standing at the front counter of the funeral home, working on a computer. I looked back and forth between this man and my family for a few moments, debating whether or not to stay for the memorial. Curiosity won out and I headed down the hall, not making an ounce of sound.

If the man was surprised to see me, it didn’t show on his face. He simply looked up and nodded at me. He didn’t say a word as he walked into an office behind me. I followed, not knowing if that’s what he wanted. He sat behind the large mahogany desk and stared up at me.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Daniel Stoor?” He looked around the room as he spoke.

“I was wondering if you could answer a simple question for me,” I said, suddenly uncertain. If knowledge is power, then this man was much more powerful than me, for he certainly held all of the knowledge in this room. “At least I think it’s a simple question.”

“We’ll see after you ask it Mr. Stoor.”

“Were you once a ghost?” I asked him, trying to be straight forward.

“I told you that I once stood where you did. Don’t you suppose that made me a ghost?” His eyes were wistful, as though remembering another life.

“I think so, but I’m not certain of anything when it comes to ghosts. Until two days ago, I wouldn’t have even thought they existed.”

“And you were right to think that,” he said, glancing behind me. A couple of my friends had just passed by the counter on their way to the service. “Ghosts don’t exist for long usually; so, they don’t really have enough time to make their presence known.”

“How are you human now?” I asked, holding out hope for a remedy for my current plight.

“Some ghosts – a very select few – are chosen as guides for the other ghosts. They are known as spirit guides. Once they have passed their time as a ghost, learning all there is to know about their abilities and ways, they are granted the title of spirit guide and their humanity is restored to them. It is a lengthy process that takes a few years at least. However, the reward is well worth the wait.” He watches the desk behind me, as though waiting for someone to arrive. Or perhaps, he is just making sure no one is watching him talk to himself.

“How does one become a spirit guide?” I asked, holding out hope for myself.

“There are two things that go into a spirit guide. The first is that a spirit guide must be destined from birth to die early. The younger a spirit guide is, the longer he or she will be able to guide others when humanity is restored. He or she must also prove to be loyal, cunning, and free from earthly ties during spirithood. It does nobody any good if the spirit guide is looking for pieces of his or her old life instead of helping new ghosts move on,” he said, getting up as an elderly couple comes to the desk.

“Do you know ahead of time who is destined for spirit guide?” I asked him as he headed for the door. I watched as he turned to face me.

“I don’t know, but I do know the signs to look for.” He looked at me for a moment longer before heading for the desk to help the couple. I stared after for a few minutes, wondering if I was one of the elect few who qualified for spirit guide. I certainly fell into one of the categories and certainly I could work my way into the other category.

I allowed these thoughts to plague my mind as I headed down the hall to the memorial. I could see people spilling out into the hall as the turnout for my service was much higher than I ever could have anticipated.

* * * * *

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This work by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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